Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

UGA's search: Smart, Muschamp, Herman (and a bit about Richt)

Thoughts about coaches:

  • Rumor has it that Kirby Smart would like to bring former Bulldog teammate Will Muschamp to Athens, assuming Smart is offered the Georgia job, which I believe he will be. To me, that's not much of a selling point. Muschamp is damaged goods: Fired by Florida, a high-priced dud at Auburn. Imported to fix the Tigers' defense -- and labeled by Gus Malzahn as "the best defensive mind in the country, and not just in college" -- Muschamp's defenders finished 89th in the nation and next-to-last in the SEC in yardage against. (That's actually a regression from last season, when Auburn was No. 64 nationally.) And Muschamp's sideline tirade during the Alabama game didn't just make for amusing viewing -- his penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct cost his team 15 yards and led to Bama kicking a field that turned a six-point game into a nine-point game.
  • Rumor also has it that, if Muschamp isn't available, Smart would like to retain Jeremy Pruitt to coach Georgia's defense. (The two worked together at Alabama.) This could prove problematic. Pruitt irked -- that's a mild word for it -- Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity last season when, after speaking to the media only sporadically during the season, he presented himself after a midweek practice to lobby for the apparently all-important indoor practice facility . Pruitt has also ticked off some who work in Butts-Mehre for his dismissive -- also a mild word for it -- treatment of longtime staffers. That stuff about there being Pruitt-related discord within the football program? That was real.
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  • It's worth noting that Muschamp, rather amazingly, is drawing interest from South Carolina . It was reported last week that Houston's Tom Herman had removed himself from consideration regarding the Gamecock job and that Smart was the top choice there. If Muschamp is in play in Columbia, it could well mean that Smart no longer is. And if he isn't, it's almost surely because he has another SEC job in mind. If you get my drift.
  • For those who suggest that Smart isn't ready because he has never been a head coach, let's note that Mark Richt hadn't, either. He was 40 when he took the Georgia job; he won two SEC titles in his first five seasons. Vince Dooley was 31 when he was hired from Auburn; he won two SEC titles in his first five seasons. To repeat: Smart -- who'll turn 40 two days before Christmas -- is not Ray Goff, who was hired to coach Georgia because he'd gone to Georgia. No other major program would have hired Goff as head coach. A bunch of major programs would hire Smart; a few have already tried. Smart has worked eight years at Alabama under Nick Saban, seven as defensive coordinator, and for those who say, "We all know Saban calls his own defense" ... I have been assured that is not true.
  • As for it being better to hire an offensive guy than a defensive man: In the main, that's true. But there are exceptions. Nick Saban: Defensive guy. Pete Carroll: Defensive guy. Jimmy Johnson: Defensive guy. Gary Patterson: Defensive guy.
  • It has been reported that Richt will speak to Maryland about its coaching vacancy . Maryland is an intriguing program. Some very good coaches -- from Jim Tatum to Jerry Claiborne to Bobby Ross to Ralph Friedgen -- have done good-to-excellent work there, but it's a program much in flux. It whiffed badly in 2010 when AD Kevin Anderson said Friedgen would be back for the 2011 season but then, after coach-in-waiting James Franklin left for Vanderbilt, fired Friedgen and replaced him with Randy Edsall. Anderson is still in place, and the Terps are trying to make their way in the Big Ten, which is somewhat different from the ACC. Richt would be a splendid hire for Anderson , who needs one badly. (Also of note: Damon Evans is an assistant AD in College Park. If memory serves, he once worked with Richt.)
  • Richt would also be a fit, should he choose to become one, at Virginia. And at Miami, his alma mater. And maybe at Missouri. Maybe even at South Carolina. (Imagine that scenario when Georgia goes to Williams-Brice Stadium next year. Imagine also the thought of Richt replacing Steve Spurrier.)
  • Back to Herman: It has been reported that Houston is working on a new contract that would pay him $3 million . That doesn't necessarily mean he's unavailable. Georgia could pay more than that, and -- unless he's putting pen to paper as we speak -- the new deal isn't yet official. Besides, college contracts get torn up all the time.
  • McGarity is getting hammered by everyone. (Well, almost everyone. I'm an exception.) But let's note that, had he dithered long before deciding to fire Richt, the field would have shrunk. Justin Fuente had already declared for Virginia Tech. Southern Cal moved yesterday to make Clay Helton its permanent coach. There will be a handful of high-profile hirings before this week is out. If Georgia isn't among those, it will almost certainly be because the Bulldogs are waiting on a coach who has a game this weekend. If you get my drift.

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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.